Committee aims to prevent governor from charging travel to other agencies

By Jordan Shapiro

JEFFERSON CITY – Gov. Nixon would no longer be able to charge his travel expenses to other state agencies under new bill language presented to the House Budget Committee Monday.

Since elected, the governor has billed about $400,000 in air transportation to other departments. The presented language would prohibit this practice for the governor’s office, as well as other statewide elected officials.

The bill language appears on every state appropriation bill except for the Department of Public Safety, which provides security for the governor..

House Budget Chair, Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, presented the changes to the committee as part of his budget bills.

“We wanted to give clear legislative intent that the governor is not to be raiding everyone else’s budget for his personal travel,” Silvey said.

Scott Holste, the governor’s spokesman, said, “It is very early in the budget process and we don’t have any additional comments at this time.”

The longest tenured member of Missouri’s House agreed with the proposed changes.

“This amendment is sensible,” Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said.

Kelly also criticized some members of the legislature over the matter.

“I don’t support all the political rhetoric about it … there has been a lot of political manipulation of that [the governor’s travel],” Kelly said.

Silvey said he understands the need for the governor to travel and has included $500,000 in his office budget for that purpose.

The proposed bill language comes as the governor’s office released information last week regarding his air travel expenses and an ongoing battle with Silvey for travel information. Silvey said he noticed shortly after the governor took office there was a small amount of money being spent on travel.

“In fact when we would ask questions about it, I asked the governor’s chief of staff specifically if that was enough money to cover travel and the only answer I would ever receive is ‘that is all we are requesting’,” Silvey said.

After investigation, Silvey discovered the travel was being paid for by other state agencies and not the governor’s office.

“They were doing it around our backs, behind our backs not telling anyone about it,” Silvey said.

Early in the legislative session House Democrat and Republican leadership said they were going to stop the governor’s practice of billing other agencies for his travel. Last week the House unanimously passed an amendment requiring the governor to submit details of his travel to the Missouri Accountability Portal.

Silvey also is not buying the governor’s estimate on his travel cost. The governor reported around $400,000 in air travel expenses, but Silvey said he thinks the real cost is around $1.2 million. Silvey said the governor’s report estimated a cost of $400 per hour for flying, but he thinks the real cost is between $1100 and $1200.

The governor’s office provided no additional comment.

The budget committee will vote on these changes during budget mark-up next week.